Cross-posted at RonKayeLA.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck hit a raw nerve with his decision Friday to stop the practice of impounding for 30 days cars driven by unlicensed — and usually uninsured — drivers who are stopped at sobriety checkpoints.
His policy change, made on his own authority, was taken after meeting with immigration rights advocates who complained the impound policy was unfair to illegal immigrants since they are not allowed under state law to get licenses and causes them great hardship .
An article about his decision was printed Saturday in the LA Times, generating 527 comments by Monday morning, most of them unsympathetic to illegal immigrants and highly critical of the chief whose new policy requires officers to allow unlicensed drivers a "reasonable" period of time to get a licensed driver to the scene to avoid being towed.
A followup article Monday noted just last month that a federal appeals court ruled that 30-day impounds are justified to "protect Californians from the harm caused by unlicensed drivers."
"During DUI checkpoints, officers may encounter unlicensed drivers," the LAPD press release late Friday said. "When these situations occur, officers will attempt to identify the
registered owner of the vehicle. If the registered owner is present or
is able to respond to the scene within a reasonable period of time, the
vehicle will be released to the registered owner, providing he or she is
a licensed driver. If the registered owner is unlicensed, the owner may
authorize release of the vehicle to a licensed driver at the scene, and
the unlicensed driver will be issued a citation. When the vehicle
cannot be released to a licensed driver, the vehicle will be impounded."
A citation for an unlicensed driver?
If someone doesn’t have a license or presumably other valid identification, how can the arresting officer know who to cite what’s the point — nearly one million traffic tickets issued by LAPD already have gone to warrants that are unenforceable without photos, valid addresses or other information needed to find the person.
What Beck did was to join San Francisco and a few other cities that have found a back-door way around California’s refusal to allow illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses as Utah and a few other states are doing.
Our immigration policies are insane in their ineffectiveness — how does it help us to have millions of identity-less people in our country driving without licenses, insurance or registration? This back-door driver’s license policy only compounds the insanity.
It’s clear we lack the will either to enforce immigration laws or change them. For everyone’s safety and well-being, the least we could do is to make sure that everyone driving a vehicle has a license and that we have their photo, fingerprint and address.
The AAA Foundation updated its website over the weekend to point out its studies that one in five fatal crashes involved a driver without a license — revoked, suspended or never had one.
California Office of Traffic Safety statistics show California tops the nation in hit-and-run accidents and LA tops the state. Just last week, LAPD officers and the families of victims of tragic hit-and-run accidents went before the City Council to seek $50,000 rewards for information that would help find the drivers in these cases.
One of the main reasons a driver would flee the scene is because they are unlicensed and can disappear easily.
Courts have repeatedly upheld the 30-day impound rules as long as they are clear and unambiguous and apply evenly to everyone. The goal is to save lives by getting their cars off the road and imposing significant penalties through fines, towing and storage charges.
Beck’s law is hardly unambiguous, putting officers in a difficult position and making them subject to discipline and second-guessing over what actions they take in deciding how long to wait for a licensed driver to appear.
It also puts the city at risk of lawsuits if the unlicensed driver gets back behind the wheel after the cops leave and then gets into an accident any time during the 30-day period when the car might have been impounded.
What is wrong with us that we can’t have a rational discussion that leads to rational policies on driver’s licenses, immigration or just about anything else?
Are we really better off with a vast hidden class of identity-less people than having rational standards for who can come to this country and live with the same legal protections and responsibilities as everyone else?
It seems we would rather keep bashing illegal immigrants or bleeding for the difficulties they face depending on our political leanings than we would than we would to acknowledge there is a problem and fixing it.
It is just another example of our suicidal tendencies.